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In the years following the 1950 league championship, the Phillies seemed to be treading water, they had a core group who continued to shine – Ashburn, Ennis, Hamner, Puddin’ Head, Roberts, Simmons, but no matter how hard they tried to add to the mix, they always came up short, and as the years went by, it became more and more clear that they were doomed to remain somewhere in the middle. In 1954 they finished 4th at 75-79, 22 games behind the New York Giants and their budding star, Willie Mays, in the first of his 20 consecutive all-star seasons.
What were they thinking in January when they paid $70,000 to the Pirates for a worn out 38-year-old right handed pitcher named Murry Dickson, who was coming off a 10-19 season with the last place Pittsburgh Pirates? What they got was a 20-game loser (he won 10). They made up some of that dough when they sold Eddie Waitkus to Baltimore in March for $40,000. Why Waitkus? He was 35 years-old to be sure, but he was doing what he always did – hitting close to .300, getting on base, anchoring the infield. Sure, they now had Torgeson to play 1st base, but what was he bringing to the party? He was the definition of a journeyman ballplayer – a lifetime .265 hitter with occasional power that always got people thinking he was better than he was. The March 28th deal for shortstop Bobby Morgan from Brooklyn where he was never going to replace Pee Wee Reese, seemed to make more sense. He cost the club $50,000, but it was clear to everyone that the team would go nowhere with Ted Kazanski at short. In 1954, Bobby Morgan played 135 games at short for the Phils, he hit .262 with 14 homeruns and 50 RBIs; he made 29 errors.
A favorite trick for losing ball clubs, if new players don’t help – get a new manager. The phillies tried that in 1954. Steve O’Neil hung up his spikes at the all-star break with the team at 40-37, and handed off to Terry Moore who at the time was taking it easy between coaching jobs for the St. Louis Cardinals where he had starred in centerfield for many years. Manager Moore was 35-42 with the Phils to top off the 1954 season and never managed again.
In spite of efforts by local groups to prevent it, the Philadelphia A’s left town in 1954, turning everything over to the Phillies, including the ballpark. Shibe Park was renamed Connie Mack Stadium, and the 90-year-old Mack was still alive to accept the honor. At the dedication ceremony all he wanted to talk about was the three homeruns he hit for the 1888 Washington Nationals.